A Look Back at the Start of Ask For Luigi, Which Turns Five This Week

Five years ago this week I looked into Ask For Luigi as it was awaiting its final inspections and getting ready for launch at 305 Alexander Street. The tables and floors were littered with spent cardboard, unfilled menus, fresh bus pans and other bits of service detritus, but it looked very promising.

The little Italian restaurant in Railtown has since gone on to win awards and attract nightly line-ups of food-savvy locals and well-directed visitors, and it has never not been voted on to the Scout 25 since the seasonal best restaurant list’s inception (invariably ranked in the top 10 too).

Here’s what I wrote about it those five years ago, plus several photos of its imminence…

The good folks at Gastown’s Pourhouse and Main Street’s Pizzeria Farina are at it again, this time in the old Two Chefs & A Table location at 305 Alexander Street in Railtown. Their new casual Italian 30 seater is called Ask For Luigi.

What’s in a name? “Of course there’s no Luigi here,” says co-owner/chef J.C. Poirier, smiling. “It’s like when a friend recommends a place to you where they have a personal connection. The name is to make people feel at home.”

They’ve been working on it hard since Two Chefs shuttered in less than desirable circumstances back in the summer.

The new space was tightly designed by Craig Stanghetta with (see also Meat & Bread, Pidgin, et cetera) with great branding by Glasfurd & Walker. It was nearly finished when I paid them a visit yesterday. The wood panelled walls are lovely (with black and white framed photos and nooks for glassware and taps) and there’s tons of natural light with big windows to the west and south. Ask For Luigi looks and feels like it’s been there for a long time already.

I’ve seen Poirier’s menu, and it’s a gooder. There are several different pastas, all made in-house (yes, even the spag and their gluten-free substitute), paired with several different sauces, everything from classic Pomodoro to ragus of chicken liver and duck, plus plenty of starters, among them meatballs, arancini (dubbed “suppli al telephone” to describe the wiry strings of mozzarella that emerge once they’re cut open) and a fish-only take on a vitello tonnato.

Running the front of house will be Matthew Morgenstern, formerly of West Hastings’ award-winning Wildebeest. In addition to a short cocktail card, he’s put together a neat little white-heavy wine list that will grow as the restaurant ages. All wines are available by the glass, and guests will be notified (via a tinkling bell) every time a new bottle is opened. How cool is that?

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